Earlier this week, students at four of McDuffie County's five schools dove head first into Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
The CRCTs are standardized measures that serve as some of the state's primary benchmarks used in determining whether a school makes Annual Yearly Progress.
CRCTs are administered to students in grades three through eight in five subject areas: math, reading, language arts, science and social studies. Students in grades one and two won't be tested in science or social studies.
Local teachers spent much of the school year preparing their students for the CRCT, and while McDuffie County Superintendent of Schools Ed Grisham said that preparation for these tests is very important, teachers didn't want to place added pressure on their students.
"You don't want to overplay something. You don't want kids to get pressured and worried," he said last week. "All the teachers have tried over the past several days to make sure that the kids are familiar with the format of how to take the test, and it won't be any shock to them about the organization and the test format."
McDuffie County schools have historically performed well on the CRCTs.
Last year the school system reported a 6.5 percent increase in scores from the previous school year, and since 1999-2000, scores system wide have been raised an average of 18 percent per subject.
As a result, all of McDuffie County's elementary schools have made AYP for the last several years, with two of them -- Thomson Elementary and Maxwell Elementary -- recently recognized as Distinguished Schools for meeting AYP five years in a row.
As local officials hope CRCT scores continue to rise, state officials are implementing rules that will make it more difficult for students to advance from third to fourth grade.
A new Georgia guideline says that any third grade student who doesn't make a passing score on the reading portion of the CRCT will not be promoted to the fourth grade.
McDuffie County Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kathy Collins said she doesn't think the new rule will have much of an effect on McDuffie County's retention rates.
"In McDuffie County what we have done for six years is we have kind of set our own promotion policy based on multiple assessments, and we've done that on every grade level. Where it's new for the state it's not new for the county," she said. "I don't think the percentages will be any different, frankly."
Dr. Grisham agreed with Dr. Collins, but did concede that there may be a slight deviation.
"It may affect it some, but I don't expect any drastic change from what we've had normally as retention at third grade," he said.
CRCT testing will continue until the middle of next week.